Clarke University held its 176th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18, 2019, at 2 p.m. in the Robert and Ruth Kehl Center on the campus of Clarke University. The day began with a baccalaureate liturgy at 10 a.m. at which graduates received their academic hoods.
This ceremony marked the final commencement for retiring president Sister Joanne Burrows. Clarke awarded 263 degrees at this commencement: 169 bachelor’s degrees, 44 master’s degrees and 50 doctoral degrees.
Senior class Valedictorian Emily Reisenberg addressed the graduates.
Reisenberg’s message to all graduates was one of encouragement. She said, “Whoever you are and whatever you aspire to be, be the very best. Be the very best business person, artist, nurse, counselor, teacher, or physical therapist that you can be, because to be anything less is an injustice to yourself.”
She joked about the daunting task of writing her commencement address. “Writing this speech was no easy task. How, exactly, am I supposed to cram the entirety of four years down into one five minute speech? It was like trying to fit an entire meal from the cafeteria into a to-go box. You try to fit as much as you can, but the sad truth is, you just can’t fit it all. So you pick and choose what you think is important (the cookies, obviously) and leave out what you just can’t fit. So I ditched the salad bar and tried to cram as many cookies into this speech as I possibly could. This is the to-go box version of the past four years.”
Reisenberg encouraged her classmates to explore their capabilities: “I have learned that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for, and I know the same is true for many people in this room. In reality, there is very little you cannot do if you are willing to be persistent and put in the required work. Do not set limitations for yourself that don’t exist outside of your own head, and equally as important, don’t let anyone else set limitations for you.”
Each year at commencement, a member of the graduating class and a faculty member receive special awards. Graduating senior Caroline Herrig was awarded the Francis J. O’Connor Memorial Award. The most prestigious award bestowed upon a graduating senior, the award is based upon the demonstration of leadership, cooperation, generosity, kindness, and academic achievement.
The Meneve Dunham Award for Excellence in Teaching, the university’s highest award for outstanding teaching, was given to Ann Weltin, Associate Professor of Nursing.
In addition, honorary degrees were presented to retiring Clarke University President, Joanne M. Burrows, SC, Ph.D., and Clarke University Board of Trustee Chair, Rob Wahlert. Burrows and Wahlert each received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at the ceremony.
Burrows addressed the students about finding happiness. She said, “My remarks are directed to you, the graduates. It is for you that I come to work each day. You are the reason I sat through countless meetings, fretted over budgets, travel to see donors, attend your events, and ate tacos with the new students. You are the alpha and omega of my happiness at work. I am one of those lucky people who has found happiness in her work. I have been pretty darn happy for the past 43 years. Life is too short to be unhappy at work and since most of us need to work to earn a living, we must find ways to make work a source of purpose, hope and relationships, all sources of happiness.”
Wahlert said, “I have been told that the best speeches at a commencement ceremony are short. With that in mind, I’ll share some words of wisdom that in a very short statement have helped me. At only nine words, it’s short enough for a Tweet: ‘Think of others first, yourself last, and God always.’”
To accommodate additional guests, the liturgy and Commencement ceremony were simulcast in Jansen Music Hall in the R.C & Celeste Wahlert Atrium. Clarke also streamed the liturgy and commencement ceremony via Clarke’s website for off-campus viewing.
For more information, contact the Clarke University Academic Affairs Office at (563)588-6406.